*This story was originally published in Women's Web as part of their 'Muse of the Month' feature. The cue for the month of January was “We tell ourselves stories in order to live”.*
I was sitting on my favorite bench in the park. It’s the third time this month that I have been so angry with Sachin. After each fight I banged the front door as hard as I could, ran to the park and grabbed a seat on this bench.
I thought of my life with Sachin. Ours had been a traditional arranged marriage and we didn’t have enough time to get to know each other before marriage. Sachin and I had completely opposite personalities. While I was the spirited, firebrand extrovert, Sachin was the shy, quiet guy who preferred to be left alone with his music and books. He was the quintessential “nice” boy that random aunties heaped praise on. The one common thing that we shared was our massive egos. So after each fight we would refuse to talk to each other, even though we hoped fervently that the other person surrenders and starts talking.
“Why the hell does he have to fight so often?”
I blurted out suddenly, unable to hold the mental anguish within me anymore.
I heard a soft chuckle beside me and turned to see an old woman sitting on my bench.
“Compromises and adjustments are just another side of the coin called love, my dear”, she said wisely.
The last thing I needed now is an old woman who would rub salt on my injuries. I avoided looking at her hoping that she would not continue the conversation. But I was wrong.
“I have been married for 35 years, but a single day doesn’t go by without my husband and I having an argument. My husband is the most foolish, stubborn and egoistical person I have known but I still love him. You know why? Because no matter how much we fight, before the night ends, he always ensures that I am in his arms. He makes sure that all my anger melts before the next dawn.”
She chuckled as she pulled the shawl closer around her frail body. In spite of my initial reluctance to be drawn into a conversation I asked the old woman “Is it always your husband who apologizes?”
“Yes. Except that one time.” Her eyes clouded as she remembered.
“We had an argument that evening and I was caustic with my words. I was being vindictive because he was leaving me and going out of town for a week. That night, as always, I expected him to come to me and comfort me. But he never came and in the morning I mutely went to my office. I was seething within and I promised myself that I would never cave in and apologize. Around noon, I heard the news that the train in which he was supposed to travel had met with an accident and all the passengers had died. I almost went mad with grief. I wished a thousand times that I had made my peace with him the night before.”
She paused here with tears in her eyes.
I was so absorbed in her story that I almost forgot my own troubles.
“When I went home I saw him waiting at the threshold. It was the happiest moment in my life. I was so glad that he was alive. I ran and hugged him and promised never to fight with him. Later I learnt that he had been so disturbed about our fight, he had never caught the train.”
“My dear, life is too short to bear grudges. Now tell me, do you love that boy of yours?”
I nodded my head. Even though we fought like cats and dogs, I couldn’t imagine my life without Sachin. He made my life complete. I wouldn’t mind sacrificing my ego if that’s what it takes to keep the love of my life.
I wanted to thank the old woman when another woman came to stand beside us.
“Martha, I have been looking all over for you. Have you been blabbering again? It’s too cold out here. Let’s get you home”.
Martha walked away with a smile on her lips but the other woman stayed back.
“I’m sorry if Martha was a nuisance. Even since the death of her husband she’s been a little off. She spins stories and talks to random strangers.”
I was stunned beyond words, but the woman continued, looking at the receding figure of Martha.
“They were so much in love with each other but her husband, the poor man, had a tragic death in that wretched train accident. Martha couldn’t even say her last good-byes to him. “
The woman realized that she was rambling and rushed to Martha’s side.
I hurried to my home with a lighter heart but my feet steady with resolute steps.